INTERVIEWS / MAR. 01, 2015
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Hiring Managers are Less Likely to Recruit Overweight Applicants

Is ‘weightism’ the “last bastion of workplace discrimination”? One study conducted by employment consultancy Protecting.co.uk seems to suggest that it is. The company surveyed a total of 480 managers with responsibility for hiring and found that a staggering nine out of ten employers wouldn’t hire an obese candidate; particularly if the job involves contact with the general public. Suitably outraged? Read on for some of the highlights of the study.

See also: How to Create a Diet Plan

The Highlights of the Study

  • Managers want to protect the ‘public face’ of their business; however, they also believe that obese employees are more likely to present health issues that may lead to time off work.
  • Over half of the managers interviewed were concerned that an obese candidate might need to take time off work due to ill-health.
  • No matter how qualified a candidate, their weight can prove to be a “make or break” factor in applying for jobs.
  • Given a choice between an obese candidate and a thinner, equally qualified candidate, nearly eight out of ten of the managers would not employ the obese candidate.
  • Nearly nine out of ten managers working in retail and other customer-facing business sectors would not employ an obese candidate over a thinner, equally qualified applicant.
  • Managers equated weight to laziness, with one candidate saying, “If you’re too lazy to look after yourself why should I employ you?”
  • Other managers believed that overweight/obese workers would be “off-putting” candidates.
  • Managers were cognisant of being on “morally difficult ground” in their discrimination against obese candidates, with many of them choosing to remain anonymous.
  • According to Protecting’s Mark Hall, the ‘prejudice’ displayed by the managers interviewed may be a response to viewing “obesity as an illness”. Referring to the fact that nearly half of the managers believed that obese candidates would be more inclined to be absent from work due to ill health than thinner job applicants, he observes that the prejudice is “because we’ve long been unconsciously trained to consider obesity as an illness.”

The New Bias

The Protecting study comes in the wake of a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice that obesity can in some extreme instances be a disability, and it highlights real areas of concern for businesses today. The study corroborates findings from other studies about discrimination against fat people, with one study showing overweight people being disadvantaged with regards to “salary, leadership potential and selection”. Another study published in the Journal of Obesity and reported in Time.com reveals that the US has seen an increase of over 60 percent in weight bias over the last decade, “a level of discrimination comparable to racial bias”, within the workplace.

Overweight people are discriminated against in many spheres of life. Although it may be difficult to tackle this bias in society at large, organisations can certainly set an example – or they will be ‘made an example of’: confronted with the very real  consequences of “expensive tribunals and legal fees”, as Protecting’s Mark Hall remarks.

What are your thoughts on this issue? I’d love to know. Share your thoughts and comments below!

 See also: Top 10 Meal Plans for Healthy Work Lunches

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